Hands on: Samsung Gear 360 2017 review

The second-gen 360-degree camera isn’t the evolution we were hoping for

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

The 2017 edition of Samsung’s Gear 360 is easy and fun to use, especially if you haven’t dipped into 360-degree video before. It seems to be one of the best on the market, but unfortunately, that’s not saying much.

For

  • Fun software
  • High novelty factor
  • Slick, ergonomic design

Against

  • Doesn’t record in true 4K
  • Disappointing video quality
  • Downgrade in specs over last year’s model

 The Samsung Gear 360 is just a video camera. But thanks to its two camera setup, it doesn’t just record the world, it records your world, with you included in on the fun.

In that sense, the new Samsung Gear 360 for 2017 shares the same goal as the first iteration: make shooting 4K 360-degree video content easy and relatively affordable. However, it goes about its mission in a much sleeker fashion, ditching the bulbous heft of last year’s model and opting for a more portable build that’s arguably easier and more fun to use.

However, comparing them down the smallest detail reveals that the new model isn’t exactly an upgrade in every way. For instance, the aperture and megapixel values on each of the two 180-degree lenses are less than we found in last year’s version. Also, the battery capacity has taken a bit of a hit in the journey to slimming down its form factor.

We still don’t know exactly how much Samsung’s new VR-ready camera will launch for and where and when you’ll be able to purchase one. But given that it’s smaller to stick in a tote bag than its predecessor and seems to live up to what made the Gear 360 notable in the first place should be enough to make it worth buying, at least for first-time buyers 

Features

High-speed sports camera, this is not. But Samsung looks to its Gear 360 to steal away some of GoPro’s pie with a stellar companion app and unique features like live video streaming.

It’s a surprise to nobody that the main appeal of this camera is that it can shoot video in a full, world-encompassing 360-degrees. The pocket-size construct of Samsung’s Gear 360 for 2017 makes it a more ideal option than last year’s model for those on the go, whether you’re capturing some precious vacation memories or just showing off your neighborhood to the world via Facebook Live.

But why record in 360-degrees, you ask? Well, for a variety of reasons. It’s cool. Your current camera probably can’t do it. Plus, and most importantly, these clips are viewable inside of VR headset, whether it be the Samsung Gear VR, the Google Daydream View, or any other major headset. Someone else can step into your shoes and see what your world looks like. Enough said.

In dual-lens mode, the Gear 360 can record video at a resolution advertised as 4K in 24 frames per second (fps), 2K at 30fps and above 1080p in 60fps. If you’ve never seen this sort of thing in action, Samsung’s software stitches together the feed from the two lenses to make it look as seamless as possible. However, we noticed that the more action-packed the footage, the more tearing can be seen at the seams.  

Additionally, users can record with a single lens, which tops out at 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. This mode is perfect for when you want to capture some video, but you want to keep your bad hair day off the record.  

Video isn’t the Gear 360’s only forte. It can also take still photos and time-lapse footage as well. While reduced from 15MP, as we saw in the original Gear 360, to 8.4MP, the photographs that this camera can churn out are quite good, rivaled in quality by, say, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and other smartphones with awesome cameras.  

That said, the ability to take 360-degree photos is a factor that differentiates it from a device that can only shoot on a 2D plane.  

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.